Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thanks for the Hook-Up

My head has not been there in a while.  The past months, really the past couple of years have been too good to dwell on what was, what happened and what might have happened.  Encounters make me think back.

I went to a wedding and saw the minister that sat with us the morning April 4, 2005.  That was the morning of Marty’s surgery to stop the bleeding from her ruptured cerebral aneurysm.  That was the morning I began to understand mortality.

That Sunday the minister in question sat with us, first in a small room, then a larger room.  She sat with me, with Erin, with Matt, with Sarah, with Wesley as we paced, as we waited anxiously and hopeful for word on Marty after her hours’ long surgery.  It was a long, painful, exceedingly frightening wait.  It was one of those did she live kind of waits.

At the wedding I talked briefly to the right reverend Fran and thanked her for being with us that day.  I didn’t do a very good job of saying thank you and telling her how much her presence meant to me and to my family.  I don’t think I explained how much comfort it brought to be connected with our faith at a time when every part of my life, every fiber of my being was shaken and my faith was being pulled from me little by little with every tick of the clock.  

It’s taken me years to understand that Fran’s loving and calm presence that day did more than just offer spiritual solace.  Her presence that morning connected me to my church and to our larger church. Actually, it was more than that, the connection Fran brought helped me tap into a faith that all too often wavers and all too often is led by my doubts.  

Sitting in those rooms, waiting for news, good or bad, I needed something big to hold, Fran brought that.  That connection to the church universal has kept me coming back to my faith in spite of my doubts and fears and anger.  It is a connection to something larger and more important than me or a single congregation.

Fran came to us that day through Matt and Sarah’s church, but it is my church too because as Presbyterians we are connected.  My church is connected to their church which is connected to my parent’s church which is connected to my sister’s church all of which is connected to the faith of the thousands of doubters in the past and the future.  

We are a connectional church and that is what my faith needed that day, I needed to feel joined to my church 100 miles away, I needed the faith of my parents and sister who happened to be in Ireland at the time, I needed the faith of all of those who had gone before Marty and I, and I needed the faith of all of those who would come after us.  

I am sure Fran has sat with countless people, some in better situations, some in worse.  I did not know her, Marty didn’t know her, but she made me comfortable, she gave me comfort.  On that day, at that time Fran was a part of my larger family.  On that day at that time Fran brought a modicum of peace to me and mine.  On that day at that time Fran represented something, for me, that was much larger than her, than me, than Marty, she represented the love and the history our faith.

Our world has changed in the 9 ½ years since that April in 2005.  I have changed, my base of knowledge and understanding about our life has been expanded and I think, I think, I better understand myself and my place in our journey.

I now understand how much I need to feel connected to the greater world.  I understand today how important it was to me then, on that day.  On that day I don’t think I recognized what was going on, that Fran’s presence, for me, brought the power of presence of our faith and congregations.

Thank you Fran, it really meant a lot then, it means even more today.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

An "A" From Dr. LungLady

Life marches on…with you or without you… continues.  Our journey, while often a bit circuitous and bumpy, is at a good spot.

We went to see Marty’s lung doc and she gave Marty an “A”.  Marty swears to this minute she got an A+.  She was always a grade ho’.

It’s been months since we have seen Providence Hospital.  It hasn’t been a year but the last time we were there we were watching the Super Bowl, and its football season again (yeah).  

Better than that, better than not seeing Great and Wise on a bi-weekly basis, Marty feels good.  Sure there are fatigue issues, salivary duct issues, various snot and phlegm issues, but no major infections, nothing that has required emergency rooms or hospitals or antibiotics.  

It’s almost been good enough so I can breathe deep and lose those anxiety meds, naw; let’s not get crazy, I still need the tension in my life so I can feel normal.

Marty and I have been to countless movies, been to birthdays, celebrated her birthday in a big way and hung out at the lake for days on end.  We have sung songs, been to a wedding, laughed at each other and the oddities of our life.  We have seen our children and their children on a regular basis and celebrated their special days and their successes.

Said children, who are really adults now, though it’s hard for me to see that, are doing great.  They are all gainfully employed, well married and healthy with their own health insurance.  On the whole they like their chosen vocations get along with their mates and are living independently and oh, our baby daughter is pregnant with her 2nd child and our 4th grandchild.  Our cup truly runneth over and we have a big cup.  

Our grandkids are beginning to be functioning people and are starting various level of school and generally eager to go.  They are terminally cute, exceedingly smart and all three are what one might call precocious.  We like precocious in our family.

My parents are doing great, going and blowing and doing their thing.  We just celebrated their 86th birthdays, sorry Mom; the word is out on your age.  They are healthy, able to do what they want to do, and in a word amazing, and in another word, inspiring.

I know, I know, this is starting to sound like your basic Christmas letter, my kids and my grandkids and even my parents are better than yours, nanna, nanna, boo, boo.  Sorry about that, this is short, deal with it.

There was a time in our most recent journey where it was hard to find the bright spots, where life seemed to be closing in on us and it felt like the aftermath of Marty’s strokes was oppressive and so over powering we could not live a rewarding life.

Marty is better, I am better at my job, we are both more accepting and so grateful for the hours, days and months of good health and favor.  

We used to have one of those kitschy signs in our kitchen that read, “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  For us it should be, “When Momma feels good, we all feel good.”  

Today, Momma feels good, hey; she got an A from Dr. LungLady.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pushing Through to Happy

A comment on one of my blog posts and a couple of facebook links really nailed me this week. 

The comment was nice, the writer pointed out how good things were in my life.  They were spot on, my life is good.  It’s good for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is I have the time, resources and health to tend to Marty’s care.
The face book post was about being content in a career.  The writer posited that some in their chosen career groused because they felt like they were supposed to grouse, that they were, somehow, supposed to be unhappy because their chosen career was very hard and required long hours sometimes fighting against great odds.  I resemble that post.

The article I read, also on face book, listed five regrets the dying often had in common.  The last regret, one many of us can understand, was wishing they had let themselves be happier. 
All three of these pieces dealt with happiness.  They all spoke to me and reminded me of something….well they reminded me of …..Me.

Somehow I got it in my brain that feeling real abundant happiness, expressing joy, was okay for some, but not for the serious.  Overt happiness was not for those who had important things to do.  I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know why it would be there because I like happy, heck I am a huge fan of Pharrell’s Happy, I love it, it makes me do the baby boomer head bob.
But the curmudgeon gene is somehow stuck in me.  I know it’s kind of a stupid thought and I really, I promise ain’t that stupid.  I suspect it has to do with that whole Texas work ethic manly crapola.

There have been too many times I have found myself feeling a little guilty for being happy.  I worked hard in my life, I worked at hard jobs, I was a hard, serious career man, how could that produce happy?  Told you it was stupid.

Then came the strokes and being a giver of care for Marty, talk about a serious undertaking. 
I distinctly remember as Marty lay in a coma in the intensive care unit I was having a light moment with my children one evening.  I laughed, I smiled, and I felt a brief moment of happy with my favorite people in the world.  I occurred to me at the time I should not be having happy stuff and I decided right then and there I needed to feel bad about the happy feeling.

Marty was sick, really sick, very sick, it was serious, how can serious and happy exist together?  In my mind they couldn’t so I couldn’t ever experience a light moment, everything had to be a heavy burden so I could show myself and others that I felt miserable bad about my wife’s plight, our plight.  Guilt made me move away from happy, serious made me shun joy, dumb, dumb, dumb.

It has taken me time, like years, but I’m better at finding and accepting joy.  I still struggle with the guilt of feeling happiness, especially when Marty is feeling bad or when I am away and doing things while she is at home, recovering from her strokes, my fallen partner.  How can this engender happiness?

I know and Marty knows that we have many things to celebrate in our lives.  We have Marty being here, we have a supportive loving family, our children are good people who have joined with good people and are producing amazing people.  Happy, happy, happy.

We are supported by good people and we have met many amazing health care givers who are serious about their craft and about helping Marty.  We are incredibly fortunate to have been touched by so many who care so much and are so very talented at their chosen endeavors.  That’s bound to be happy.

We worked hard and had very good fortune and I know we are blessed that we are financially able to maintain this rather expensive care giving hobby.   This is a lot more expensive than golf, and for me and my golf skills, much more rewarding.

We have been lucky and in spite of the overall tragic circumstances we, I have a lot of reasons to be happy.  I’m happy Marty is still with me, I’m happy I’m healthy and able to care for her, I’m happy with my family, I’m happy with friends, I’m happy a lot of the time.

Most importantly I know Marty and I know she fights for happy moments for herself so I should do the same.

I still feel a little guilty for it.